Tech UPTechnologyA new bioplastic breaks down with a 'destroy command'

A new bioplastic breaks down with a 'destroy command'

Today’s society could not exist without plastics but the use of plastics has its drawbacks. These include the consumption of fossil fuels and the increasing amounts of garbage. How to fix this garbage problem?

Biomass is a sustainable, often very cheap, raw material that is gaining popularity in the creation of high-performance plastics. However, bio-based plastics have the same problem of improper recycling. Now, a team of researchers has succeeded in making high-quality plastics from biomass that can be broken down into reusable components using a “destroy command” that would be sent using light of a particular wavelength.

The power of biomass

As the researchers show in the journal Angewandte Chemie, plastic degradation commands are sent using specific wavelengths of light. The created components can be transformed into another high-quality material. These are preferably monomers that can be polymerized again to make similar high performance polymers.

The interdisciplinary team of researchers from the United States , Jayaraman Sivaguru of the Center for Photochemical Sciences at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and Mukund P. Sibi and Dean C. Webster of North Dakota State University in Fargo , they chose plastics for which degradation can be triggered by light irradiation, and intended to be polymerized again to make similar high-performance polymers.

new polymers

The researchers were able to develop cross-linked polymers containing vanillin-based building blocks in their backbone. Vanillin can be produced from materials such as lignin, a byproduct of cellulose production.

“The vanillin derivative developed by the team absorbs light at 300nm and enters an excited state . This leads to a chemical reaction that triggers polymer degradation. Because this wavelength is not contained in the spectrum of sunlight reaching the earth, unplanned degradation is avoided. The researchers managed to recover 60% of the monomers, which were able to re-polymerize without loss of quality”, the authors explain.

Renewable, recyclable, photodegradable crosslinked polymers made from biomass resources are a very promising approach to producing more sustainable plastics. Light-induced degradation is environmentally friendly and offers the advantage of spatial and temporal control.

Promising Approach

The ability to produce renewable, recyclable, photodegradable crosslinked polymers made from biomass resources appears to be a very promising approach to making more sustainable plastics that may pose little or no environmental risk.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Referencia: “Towards Upcycling Biomass-Derived Crosslinked Polymers with Light” by Dr. Ravichandranath Singathi, Dr. Ramya Raghunathan, Dr. Retheesh Krishnan, Dr. Saravana Kumar Rajendran, Sruthy Baburaj, Professor Mukund. P. Sibi, Professor Dean C. Webster and Professor Jayaraman Sivaguru, 11 May 2022, Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
DOI: 10.1002/anie.202203353

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